Nine months ago, I wrote in this newspaper an article to the town of Lyons optimistic of what was to come for the class of 2020. And six months ago, I departed that wonderful town anxiously awaiting what college had in store for me. Fast forward to today, and I never could have imagined what has become of my first year.
In my last piece, I wrote how shocking it was to hear that my peers and I “won’t even be allowed to attend class without a mask on.” Looking back now, I laugh that was such shocking news. In the last six months of being at the University of Utah, we have had to shift our way of thinking and interacting as COVID protocols have become muscle memory. Students are not allowed to have guests in their dorms, most if not all of our classes are virtual, meals have time slots you are allowed to get food during, everything has limitations now.
I look back on that girl who wrote to you nine months ago, and I fail to recognize myself. I find myself now and again missing the Olivia who wore fuzzy socks and crocs to school for all of my junior year. I find myself mourning the time I don’t get with my dogs and my family. I even find myself pitying my ‘lost’ freshman year of college on a tough day. However, just as I said in my last piece, “I hope you don’t pity the class of 2020, instead I hope you celebrate with us.”
While I wouldn’t be able to sit here and tell you I haven’t questioned my decision to attend college this year, instead of taking a gap year, of course, I have. In all honesty, I most likely should have done that, yet I don’t regret my choice in the slightest. These last six months have fundamentally changed who I am as a person. I have picked up new hobbies, interests, activities. I have joined a sorority, go Pi Beta Phi! Most importantly, I have met my forever people; the people my mom used to rant on and on about when talking about her college days.
Meeting new people was easily the most challenging piece of the whole year. Classes and events aren’t in person, people stay inside most of the day, and due to the pandemic, understandably, approaching strangers to introduce yourself isn’t as common. I came into this semester with a solid group of people looking out for me, supporting me. Yet, I still felt I was missing out. In an effort to put myself out there, I have started reaching out to people I know, but not very well, once a week and asking to get lunch or go thrifting or skiing. This has been one of the best things I could have done for myself and it is proving beneficial instantly. I challenged myself to this three weeks ago, and have now met an abundance of people just by being introduced to friends of friends. Having true friendships at college is already so crucial, in a global pandemic though, it’s that much more necessary to a student’s overall mental state. The people I have met at college have shown me what true and unfiltered compassion is. They have shown me so many different outlooks on life that I would have completely missed had I not introduced myself to that one girl in the second week of my communications class.
Coming to the University of Utah during a pandemic was certainly a gamble. A risk. One I am over the moon I took. The independence, the people, the mountains, it was all worth it. Down to the very worst part of COVID, college, and getting a new setting, it was life-altering. I have now fallen in love with Salt Lake City and the breathtaking scenery that surrounds it. I spend my nights with the car windows down belting Phoebe Bridgers with my best friend as we drive by the capitol and admire the flickering lights of our new home.
At the end of the day, uprooting change will always be a gamble. It will be a gamble that can make or break you. When my life-experiences are at stake, however, I’ll roll the dice every time.